Christmas, Baby Please Come Home

Eviction notices at Christmas. 'Tis better to give than receive. 1977
Eviction notices at Christmas. ‘Tis better to give than receive. 1977

My landlord Frank told me in October, 2013 he would be selling the building. His wife was ill, he needed more time to care for her and after 25 years he couldn’t deal with managing apartments any longer. It sold the first of December. All tenants received a letter from the new owner telling us who to mail the rent to.  We were assured that everything else would remain the same.

I flew home to Indiana on a Sunday and by mid-week I had an email from my upstairs neighbor Jim saying he was being evicted. Less than ten days after taking ownership the new landlord was handing out early Christmas presents. He had the right to evict one unit if he intended to occupy it plus an additional unit for another family member if he chose. My rent was cheapest in the building so I was the obvious target. But I was protected because of my age. Jim had lived there a long time too, 20 years, so he was also paying a lower than market rate. That made him next in line. It all sounded so suspect. Obviously everything was not going to remain the same.

My return flight to San Francisco was on January 3rd but after an interminable White Christmas it didn’t look like I’d be able to get to the airport. After much finagling and sloshing about, I rented a car, drove to Chicago, dropped it off at O’Hare and spent the night in an airport hotel. The only seat available over the next four days was early Sunday morning so I took it. When we touched down at SFO, 48 hours after I was ticketed to land, the American Airlines pilot proudly announced  “another on-time arrival.”

The first order of business was to get to the post office Monday. Every exchange with my local branch is an adventure in comprehension so I sometimes wait a couple days after a vacation until I’m in the right frame of mind.  Once after a long trip I was told I hadn’t received any mail for the entire month. Another time I picked up a huge stack only to find that a third of it was mine and the rest belonged to five other addresses in the neighborhood.  My most recent quibble with them was over a sweater I mailed in a flat rate envelope. If it fits it ships. My carrier brought it back a couple days later and told me there was not enough postage.  We bantered over the concept of flat rate for a while until he made a rounded motion over the envelope and said, “but it’s not flat.”

That Monday, however, I did not have the luxury of waiting. The uncertainty over what the owner might be up to had me at the Post Office when the doors opened. Everything went smoothly until the clerk plopped down my bundle on the counter. On top were several overstuffed envelopes from a local attorney I’d never heard of, three of which had the green return receipt cards affixed. I put them in my shopping bag and took them home to read. I was being evicted too and I had six copies to prove it.

***

The Eviction Story

Contact: ellistoellis@gmail.com

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